Friday, May 28, 2010

Organic Chicken Kabobs My Way

(c) Carrie Boyko
Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Memorial Day is sort of the unofficial kick off of Summer, even though the calendar tells us than June 21 is the true first day of the season. Honestly, summer here in Florida, begins on the day that Winter ends--Winter being that season between Thanksgiving and February 15 when the weather is spectacularly comfortable and less humid. One of the things I give thanks for every Thanksgiving is the weather--we are always able to be outside doing active things, and most often in shorts. Sorry northerners, but I couldn't resist.

Back to the real topic at hand--cookout season. Whether you call it cooking out, grilling, barbecuing, or the Aussie version,  "the Barbie", it's pretty much the same thing--outdoor cooking on some sort of grill or open fire.

It seems, when I research the health of the subject, there is no way of getting around the fact that cooking out is not great for the environment. Charcoal--nasty stuff for the ozone; natural gas--made from fossil fuel; burning wood--releases all sorts of nasties into the atmosphere. I'll admit I'm not extremely well-read on this topic, but I sure do love the taste of food cooked outside. So giving up my green badge for a day occasionally is just going to have to do. Here's one of my favorite recipes for grilling out for.

Carrie's Organic Chicken Kabobs and Grilled Vegetables
served over rice, with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables of the season

Ingredients: (to serve 4, multiply per your requirements)

  • 3-4 organic chicken breasts, washed and dried 
  • 1 medium to large organic yellow onion, sliced 1" wide at the circumference.
  • 1 each--Organic red, yellow and orange peppers, sliced about 1" wide
  • 1-1 1/2 cups white cooking wine or leftover white table wine
  • 1 cup organic Italian salad dressing (I use fat free)
  • Organic rice, your choice (I like Texmati)
  • 2 large organic carrots, grated
  • 1 cup organic green vegetables (beans, broccoli, snap peas, etc), chopped or grated fine
  • Sea salt

  1. Stir wine and salad dressing together in a shallow container with a lid.
  2. Beat the chicken breasts with a tenderizing mallet and then stab repeatedly with a fork, creating punctures through the meat.
  3. Cube the chicken to roughly 1-1/2" square.
  4. Add the meat to the marinade mixture and stir in well. 
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days, stirring and turning meat daily. Try not to skimp on the 3 days much, as the extra time makes for a more flavorful, tender chicken.
  6. Prepare one dish of your choice of summer veggies to serve as a side.
  7. Also, create a fruit salad from the many summer fruits and berries available, choosing local whenever possible.
  8. On the big day, skewer the chicken cubes, alternating them with onions and peppers to create a colorful array. 
  9. If you have any vegetarians joining you, they will no doubt prefer a skewer of just veggies, and I would add some of the beans, broccoli, snap peas, etc to this to offer more variety for this choice.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate until grilling time.
  11. Before time for the grill, start your rice, adding the vegetables during the last few minutes to keep them colorful and not overcooked.
  12. Grilling your kabobs won't take long, once the grill is heated up, so be prepared to turn them frequently and remove quickly--probably about 10 mintues total, depending on the size of the cubes.
  13. Serve your kabobs hot off the grill and enjoy.
If you say 'grace', be sure to give thanks for the variety of vegetables in this healthy meal. Can you count how many colorful veggies you're eating? They contain generous amounts of Lycopene and antioxidants that are great cancer fighters, making them a regular guest at my table.

Need an organic dessert recipe? Here's a few from my archives:

Organic Irish Apple Cake (no frosting, much healthier than traditional cake)
Toni's Favorite Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Organic Cinnamon Raisin Bread

You say it's raining? 
Cook your kabobs in the broiler or on your indoor grill. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ADHD Linked to Exposure to Pesticides: Will this Drive a Move to Organic Food Production?

© Carrie Boyko

A study just released in the Journal of Pediatrics found increased levels of pesticides in the urine of children in an ADHD study. In addition, the study determined that a greater risk of ADHD is evident when pesticides are present in the child's body. This study will most certainly churn up some anger in parents and hopefully encourage more use of natural fertilizers and pest control. It's safer for our pets and us.

Anyone who has ever read The Hundred Year Lie will not be surprised. Randall Fitzgerald explains the history of our food system and its woes so graphically, you may not want to eat again. Yet, there are things you can do to minimize your risk, such as selectively choosing the produce you buy ORGANIC. More on this in my next post. Meanwhile, buy the book. Devour it. Read on...

The hazards of synthetic pesticides have long been known, yet ignored by the big agriculture companies. Today's Internet reports on this topic give credibility to the concern. Here are links to  just a few of the major news sites with their reports on this study:

The Daily Green
Los Angeles Times
NBC Today Show
The Atlantic

Okay, I think you get the idea now. This is major news for the health of the children in our country. Conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are laden with pesticides, and organically produced veggies are more expensive due to the extra labor and guidelines they must endure. This means that most families cannot afford to eat organically-grown produce.

Many people I talk with hear the occasional concern about whether organic is really organic, and they can't lose that thought. Sure; there are going to be some organic farmers whose slips don't get inspected and who will get away with it. This is nothing new; it happens in every  industry.

As for me and my family, I'll take that small chance that one apple I eat may have slipped through the cracks, and hope that the rest got the clean, green treatment and are pesticide-free. 

When I garden at home, I see the effort it takes to hand-remove pests and stir compost into the soil for enhancement. I also taste the difference, and know the health benefits are there for me. It's worth it. My family is worth it. Please read The Hundred Year Lie for your family:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homespun Pork Chops Simmer Up Tender In Soup

(c) Carrie Boyko
Braised Pork Chops Cooked Up Interest
At the end of a family dinner a while back, my son announced that his guest had just enjoyed her first pork chop. I was delighted to have provided her initiation experience with this down-home dinner choice. I had served a pork chop dinner that I make regularly, served with mashed potatoes, cinnamon apples and salad. Nothing Earth-shattering, but it was tasty, nutritious and filling.

I mentioned this pork chop dish back in March, in a completely different framework--and without a recipe. Much to my surprise, I received emails from two readers asking for it!

The only thing unique about this particular dinner was the not terribly noticable absence of gluten. I sure didn't miss it, but our guest was pleased to be able to eat everything on the table. That was my goal.

Braised Pork Chops (The Other White Meat!)
  1. Spray a frying pan with organic cooking spray and turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When heated, add all natural pork chops and brown on both sides.
  3. When browned, add 1 can (for every 3-4 pork chops) of organic chicken and rice soup, pouring the rice and veggies on top of the chops. I chose a gluten-free brand of soup especially for our guest.
  4. Lower the heat to medium low and cover.
  5. Simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.
  6. The remaining soup makes a nice, light gravy for the mashed potatoes, if desired.
  7. Serve with the rice and veggies on top of the chops.
If I peaked your curiosity with the mention of cinnamon apples, you can find that recipe at this link. Hope you enjoy your healthy, organic dinner.

Related Reading:

Crockpot Leg of Lamb: Fabulous and Super Easy
Organic Banana Bread and Muffins
Let's Get Cooking: Organic Recipe Sites Galore

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Composting Organic Food Wastes Makes for Healthier Plants Next Year

(c) Carrie Boyko 2010
Basil Sprung from Hearty Compost
and Last Year's Seeds

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Last year's organic gardening efforts were my first ever, and what a thrill it was. There is truly a 'one with the earth' feeling you get when you grow something that you can eat. Here's how my journey started, and now continues. Perhaps you can derive a lesson or two from my experiences.

After nearly a year of composting, I harvested a nice crop of rich, organic compost to use for soil enhancement. Before my toxin free days of eating organic foods and using natural products,  I had enjoyed flower gardening. Never had I experienced the joy of harvesting a vegetable that could be savored in my dinner that very evening. What a thrill those first clippings of Basil and fresh-picked tomatoes were. Last year was truly a blessing for me in terms of new experiences.

The journey, this year, is continuing quite without my help--big surprise! As an exceptionally busy winter and spring had delayed my planned sowing of seeds, one day I made a discovery. I had basil growing out of the cracks in my driveway, and tomatoes popping up out of my compost pile.
Basil growing in a driveway crack!

While the latter was no surprise, as compost is supposed to be a terrific medium for starting seedlings, the basil in the cracks appeared to be nothing short of miraculous.

Scouting the area to see what other seedlings I might find, I discovered dozens of basil sprigs all around my yard. The wind and the bees had clearly done their job. I grabbed my yard gloves and tools and began to carefully harvest these precious little darlings into a bucket, to be transplanted into the container I grew basil in last year.

This container has been stowed under my overhang for the winter, after a freeze killed the last of the remaining basil. Before storing it there, I stirred in a bountiful bucketful of fresh compost, to enrich the soil for next year's seeds. When I slid it back across my yard to the sunlight, I discovered another surprise--more basil growing in the big pot--lots of it!

I gasped at the amount of little basil seedlings that filled the container, marveling at the miracles of nature. The picture at the top of this post is what I found. I had not even ordered my organic basil seeds yet, and here I already had nearly 5 dozen little plants started, after I added the ones I dug up around my yard. 

After transplanting all the driveway harvested basil, I grabbed another pot and headed back to the compost pile to dig up the tomatoes and pot them. Again I was in for a shock. I found not just the three plants in the compost pile, that I had seen originally, but also more growing around the area. It took nearly every pot I could find to locate a home for each plant. I blew a kiss to my organic compost pile as I potted the last of the tomato plants and whispered to myself, "Never again will I need traditional fertilizer; I have the gardener's secret." Bruschetta, here we come!
Tomatoes Growing in My Compost Pile
Imagine That!
Related Reading:
What Can I Put in my Compost
More on Naturally Enhancing Your Compost
Lighting a Fire Under My Compost

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© copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simply Healthy, Simply Quick, Simply Low Cal: Two Weeks in My Kitchen

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(c) photos copyright Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

Boy, did I labor over this title. I'm back to the rule #1 thing--no diet guru stuff for me. This is simply a labor of love. I'm sharing my favorite quick and simple meals that are also friendly to our waistlines. After that, I'm back to my regular gig. Deal?

Before I lay out my top 14 dinners, I have one point to make; you may think it a bit silly, but it's important to me. I have offered my top favorite family meals, along with my most common vegetable accompaniments. What I am leaving out is the fruit that often graces our meals. Sticking to organic fruit is a little tougher than vegetables, so I often need to take what I can get. The point is, I generally slice up a bowl of fruit, berries or fruit salad--a mixture--as our dessert wanna-be.

Here's the top two weeks of organic menu favorites at our house; links will take you to recipes:
I suppose you'll notice the lack of red meat.  We're trying to avoid it, although it creeps in occasionally in the form of tacos, garlic-infused hamburgers, filet mignon, a rare pot roast or  marinated kabobs. There's also an occasional pork loin roast or center cut pork chops for variety. We're definitely omnivores.

Out of 14 meals, two are fish, one includes an option for beef, three are vegetarian, 8 include rice or pasta, and 8 include chicken. All are heavy on the vegetables, except 'sandwich night'. Not a bad balance for low-fat, low-carb, high veggies in our heart-healthy meal choices.

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